May 2, 2021: Five bright planets are visible during a 24-hour interval. This evening, brilliant Evening Star Venus is in the west-northwest during bright twilight. Mercury is above Venus. Mercury is 3.4° to the lower left of the Pleaides star cluster. Mars is higher in the west when night falls.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:45 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:51 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Five planets are visible during a 24-hour period. Brilliant Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky after sunset.
Brilliant Evening Star Venus shines during bright twilight from the west-northwest. Twenty minutes after sunrise, the Venusian World is about 5° above the west-northwest horizon.
Speedy Mercury is 5.4° above Venus. You might get them to fit into the same binocular field.
Mercury is enroute to its best evening appearance of the year.
By 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is below the horizon and Mercury is over 6° up in the west-northwest. With a clear horizon, the planet is easily visible to the unaided eye.
While the planet and the starry background is low in the sky, Mercury is to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster. Use a binocular to bring out the star cluster because of its low altitude. Mercury is 3.1° to the lower left of Alcyone (η Tau on the chart), the cluster’s brightest star.
Read more about Venus in our summary document.
An hour after sunset, Mars, about one-third of the way up in the west, is marching eastward in Gemini, near the feet. It is 2.2° to the upper right of Tejat Posterior, “the heel,” (μ Gem on the chart) and 4.4° to the lower right of Mebsuta, “the lion’s paw,” (ε Gem).
The planet is not as bright as it was at the beginning of the year, but it is brighter than all the stars in its immediate vicinity.
Look for Jupiter and Saturn in the southeastern morning sky before sunrise.
Here’s more about Mars during 2021.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (20.3d, 65%) is over 20° above the southeast horizon. It is 19° to the right of Saturn. Use a binocular to spot θ Cap, 0.9° to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder. Bright Jupiter is 15.4° to the lower left of Saturn. Use a binocular to see the Jovian Giant in front of the dimmer starry background. The planet is 5.0° to the left of δ Cap and 1.4° above ι Aqr. Twenty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is nearly 5° above the west-northwest horizon. Can you see it without a binocular? Mercury is 5.4° above Venus. If not naked eye at this time interval the planet shows as the sky darkens and the celestial sphere turns westward. By 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury is over 6° above the west-northwest horizon and 3.1° to the lower left of η Tau, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster. By one hour after sunset, Mars is over one-third of the way up in the west in Gemini. It is 2.2° to the upper right of μ Gem and 4.4° to the lower right of ε Gem. A binocular helps see the starfield with the planet.
Read more about the planets during May 2021.
May 13, 2021: Venus, Mercury, the crescent moon, and Mars are in the western sky after sunset.
May 13, 2021: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are the morning planets in the southeast before sunrise.
May 12, 2021: Thirty minutes after sunset, the razor-thin moon is 1.2° to the left of brilliant Venus. This is the closest grouping of the moon and Venus during this evening appearance of the brilliant planet. Mercury is 9.1° to the upper left of Venus. Mars maintains its eastward march in Gemini. Sirius and Aldebaran are near their heliacal settings, their final appearances in the evening sky for the year.
May 12, 2021: Before sunrise bright Jupiter, in front of Aquarius, is in the southeast before sunrise. Saturn is to the upper right of Jupiter, in Capricornus. In a few mornings, Saturn begins to retrograde.
May 11, 2021: The planet parade continues today. Five planets are on display. Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky before sunrise. After sundown, brilliant Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky. The moon is at its New phase and at apogee today.